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The greatest spectacle in racing has long been coveted by automakers as the greatest spectacle in automotive product placement. However, that doesn’t mean the most exciting cars polished the track every year. Indeed, having features that at certain points in history seem to be no longer a factor means that you may occasionally see very boring machines on the line. Even so, time heals some wounds, so cars selected as pace cars before 1970 get a pass simply because most of the context is lost, but relatively new vehicles often seem to be the most painfully out of date.Here are seven Indy 500-pace cars from relatively young history that haven’t aged as well.
Where would a decade of the Indianapolis 500 be without multiple appearances from the Chevrolet Corvette? The C5 Corvette was certainly fresh in 1998 after debuting for the 1997 model year, so the car selection was very timely – more timely than the appearance of the outgoing 1995 C4 Corvette Televisions look very garish, and given the poor televisions at the time, they were also designed to look “blown out” on the broadcast feed. The result was you couldn’t see the lines of the car as well, but the yellow wheels and graphics would burn your eyes – and still do.
Fashion Crimes Committed: This has the color scheme of a Super Soaker, or some sort of giant Nerf cannon advertised during the Nickelodeon comic book blocks: “Batteries not included!”
Even in its own limited universe, the yellow ones work Wheels just don’t here and really stand out among other color choices. If the wheels were a different color, that would be 30% less of a thorn in the side. The bright yellow seats inside made the whole car look like a little Sea-Doo too.
Redeeming qualities: Thanks to the fact that the C5 was a popular retirement gift, there are plenty of them out there (with automatic transmission) and they offer very affordable performance. We’re pretty sure some closed subdivisions made it mandatory to own a C5 Corvette, and the result is that there are plenty of them in whatever color you want but are likely to have genuine tires despite the mileage. Buyers take note.
Of all the vehicles on this list, the Bravada makes us feel like the oldest. For starters, Oldsmobile was still there. 2001 doesn’t seem that far away either – there are many cars from his time that are still used as daily drivers. On the flip side, there are teenagers who already drive cars that weren’t even alive when this Bravada was in production.
The Bravada now seems like a real pick for 2001 as there were a multitude these GM SUVs that were only made with different front ends, like the Saab 9-7, and also because Oldsmobile would no longer exist in just a few years. In a way, this is a portrait of the pitfalls of badge engineering.
Fashion crimes committed: First, this is a large and bulbous SUV so it wouldn’t be a pretty sight on the track no matter what was done with it. The graphics here have a McDonald’s aesthetic thanks to that red body color, but the white zigzag belt graphics add a serious touch to a fire chief’s SUV. All that was needed here is a bar of light, and we’d drive past the shoulder to let it pass us.
Redeeming Qualities: While these are relatively new, they’re pretty rare right now (unless you live in Michigan or Ohio). These will be at a concours event in another 10 years, and we will overhear children asking their parents, “What’s an Oldsmobile?”
The pastel yellow Beretta was certainly a spectacle on the racetrack and shone to be painfully out of date as early as 1993. The Beretta convertible looked like some sort of beach car or picnic basket even before the yellow paint was added, and it wasn’t even a new model until 1990 after it debuted in 1987. As cool as the name sounded, the Cavalier basics were lukewarm at best, as was the three-speed automatic, but the V6 had a slim chance of being quickly transported through on a Friday night.
Committed fashion crimes: The Beretta convertible looked cheap at the same time, but was ambitious. It was something a Miami Vice background character could drive. The body kit here does a lot of the heavy lifting, but the pastel purple door graphics really give away the amount of time involved. Just a few years later, you couldn’t really rock that look because that door had slammed shut during that time of design.
Redeeming Qualities: We’d argue that the 1990s Chevy Beretta is unlike most other cars on it that list ironically got cool again and very qualified for Radwood. The only problem is that these days it’s hard to find a Beretta this color that has been well cared for.
Indy 500 pace cars, at best, are snapshots of a proud moment for an automaker, like the debut of one new pony cars. The 1993 Camaro Pace Car was certainly one such moment, replacing a model that had been in production for a decade and was visibly out of date by the early 1990s. The 1993 model brought Chevy’s sporty runabout into a new decade with a very contemporary appearance at the Indianapolis 500, just a few months after production began.
Fashion crime: The color scheme that visually divides the car into a light and a dark side, does not convey the design of the new Camaro really well. The top half, almost devoid of graphics, obscured the car’s surface details, while the bottom white half would have blown the highlights on TV and photos of the time. The result is another graphics pack that is reminiscent of Sea-Doo and includes some colorful ribbons on the waterline.
Redeeming quality: Like the Beretta a few years ago, this Camaro graphics pack has almost gotten cool again, and it helps that it’s not as glaring as some of its successors later this decade. It’s pretty clear the color scheme could have been a lot worse here.
Ahh, yeah! Do you remember the retro craze of the early 2000s? The Chevy SSR arrived just late enough to miss most of it – those who wanted a PT Cruiser had already bought one – so GM had to pick up some of the leftover buyers with a convertible pickup that wasn’t as functional was like a pickup and couldn’t carry many passengers as a four-seater convertible. Because of this, it also became an empty nests car to go to the Milk Queen on a Friday night.
Fashion crimes perpetrated: The SSR was cool for about 15 minutes, channeling some customs and concepts from the latter half of the late 1990s but her turn on the track ended up a little flat. The purple color and flame graphics made it look like something out of a Restomod magazine from the 1990s. From the top of the stands on race day itself, this likely looked like a stretched-wheelbase VW Beetle convertible that actually debuted that same year. So 2003 was a busy year for retro-style convertibles.
Redeeming quality: These actually had serious performance late in the 400hp model run, and it really is one of the last Indy 500-pace cars to have neither Corvette was still a Camaro. So it gets some points back for variety, even if the truckvertible itself was a best seller.
If it is at all possible, the pre-Corvette and Camaro era of the Indy 500-pace cars from around 1970 to 2005 categorize, it’s a period of time when they were either really glaring or really boring. It’s pretty clear which category the 1983 Riviera falls into, with beige sides over a white top and very little graphics of any kind.
Fashion Crime: This is probably the 20 year old’s least visually exciting pace car Stretch from 1980 to 2000. The Riviera itself is more of a hometown parade convertible than a pace car, and the model’s design was really boring the time, to the point that it’s hard to tell which one Brand it belongs. Unless you know exactly what it is, you can’t really tell that this is definitely not the Cadillac or Oldsmobile styling of the time.
It’s also hard to tell what’s on the doors because the Font too italic and too small is what you might see on a flower car owned by a funeral home. The choice of wheels doesn’t convey any real performance claims, and the overall presentation looks a bit gothic.
Redeeming quality: Well, it was roomy enough to carry some VIPs around the track in this cute twin-turbo V6, and they could sit on the trunk. But that’s about it.
Just over 25 years after the Aurora debuted, it is already difficult to explain to anyone in Europe what role the Oldsmobile brand played in GM’s portfolio or why Oldsmobile has this huge sedan in its range sedans had and what they did not offer Pontiac, Buick and Cadillac. The model debuted in 1994 and polished the Indy range for the first time a short three years later and returned with the debut of the second generation model in 2000.
Fashion crime committed: With a pearly white exterior – not a sleek color – saw the Olds – Sedan on the route already looks big enough. But the graphics here are pretty random and inelegant. A gold brickyard theme is randomly wrapped around the doors, changing in thickness in different places, with each of the checkered squares having a different shape. The American flag and checkered flag are different sizes and just sit above the golden Oldsmobile badge on the hood. The graphics here look like they were thrown together in about 10 minutes.
Some also tend to gloss over the fact that the Aurora’s design is largely that of an enlarged Chevy Cavalier of the time, or just a really big and streamlined Saturn was. With all the hype surrounding the V8 underworld, there may be some painful lessons here that few will want to investigate related to why Oldsmobile is no longer there.
Redeeming Factors: This is a rarity these days, especially at a paint job that has not yet peeled off. We’re going to see one at a concours event in another 20 years, as part of a 90s nostalgia class.